The Indian society has circularity hard-wired into its very fabric. Reduce, reuse, and recycle are Indian culture-defining ethics. On a global scale, there’s a notable shift towards sustainable resource utilization, propelling the circular economy market to a remarkable annual growth rate of 7.8 per cent. By 2028, it’s projected to exceed $650 billion, potentially unlocking a staggering $4.5 trillion in GDP growth by 2030. A significant portion of this growth, about 68 per cent, is anticipated to stem from non-renewables substitution and waste recovery. In this context, it is instructive to also note that by 2030 the sales of electric vehicles (EV) are set to increase 6 to 30 folds compared to the levels of 2019 thereby leading to an increase of discarded EV batteries. This creates a challenge to sustainably handle the waste by repurposing and recycling the EV batteries.
Now, turning our focus to India, the circular economy holds immense potential, with projections indicating it could reach over $45 billion by 2030. The private sector in the country has a unique opportunity to take the lead, positioning itself as a pioneer in securing green investments for implementing circular economy practices within its operations. This proactive approach aligns with global sustainability trends and positions businesses for long-term success in a rapidly evolving economic landscape.
With the steady growth and widespread adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in recent times, the issue of e-waste and battery disposal has come to the forefront. The global EV battery reuse market was valued at US$1,101 million in 2022 and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 31.4% during the forecast period 2023-2033 . India has a significant opportunity to employ technologies for the reuse and deployment of EV batteries, thereby alleviating a portion of its escalating demand for resources. As India takes strides toward decarbonizing its vehicle fleet through the transition to EVs, it is imperative for both the government and industry to proactively plan for the repurposing or recycling of these EV batteries, which typically have a lifespan of around 5 years when used in EVs. Even after they no longer meet the high-performance requirements for powering electric motors in vehicles, a substantial amount of residual value remains in these batteries.
Retired batteries from Electric Vehicles (EVs) can find a second lease on life either through repurposing for alternative applications or via recycling to reclaim valuable raw materials. This strategic approach not only bolsters sustainability endeavours but also aligns seamlessly with the evolving paradigm of responsible resource management. Already, several ventures in the country are spearheading the second-life industry in innovative and diverse ways and adding to the net value delivered by the circular economy.
This means they can be effectively utilized in stationary systems, complementing renewable energy generation from sources like wind and solar. They can also contribute to bolstering services provided to the electricity network. Extending the life of these batteries translates to a reduction in their carbon footprint and an increase in the availability of renewable energy on the grid. Additionally, it leads to cost savings in the production of electric vehicles, effectively transforming what would have been waste disposal expenses into residual value.
Recycling holds the potential to substantially cut down primary demand by 25–64% from 2040 to 2050, considering projected future demands. This suggests that waste streams have the capacity to offset a significant portion of future raw material needs. However, while the second use of Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries can contribute to circularity, it does defer the recycling process. In the broader context of transitioning towards sustainable practices, advancing recycling, exploring second-life uses for EV batteries, and embracing advanced battery technologies necessitate disruptive shifts in various facets of our system. This includes technology advancements, shifts in markets, innovative business models, policy adaptations, infrastructural changes, and alterations in user practices. These changes are vital for steering us towards a more sustainable and circular future.